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J Hand Surg Am. 1996 Jan;21(1):31-9.

X-ray film measurements for healed distal radius fractures.

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Department of Orthopaedics, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, WA 98104, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Hand Surg [Am] 1996 May;21(3):532.


In order to understand the effect of malunion on functional outcome, it is essential that deformity be measured in a consistent manner. A standardized method of measuring eight anatomic parameters at the distal radius was developed. By this method, six x-ray films of healed distal radius fractures were subsequently measured by 16 raters. Rater agreement was quantified by using the intraclass correlation coefficient. Tolerance limits were developed in order to estimate the expected margin of error for each parameter. Parameters measured with high rater agreement include ulnar variance, palmar tilt, and radial shift; however, even experienced clinicians did not readily agree on the size of step and gap deformity. Using the method of tolerance limits, one would expect that two randomly chosen clinicians measuring step and gap deformity on a random x-ray film will differ by more than 3 mm at least 10% of the time. Similarly, repeat step or gap measurements by the same observer are expected to differ by more than 2 mm at least 10% of the time. In view of our inability to measure deformity more accurately, the concept of a specific relationship between a given degree of deformity and outcome must be questioned. Prospective research is needed in order to improve our understanding of the precise relationship between malunion and functional outcome.

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